As retailers gear up for Black Friday and the official start of the holiday shopping season, this year is poised to be a good one according to an annual holiday shopping survey conducted by the University of St. Thomas. Shoppers at Maple Grove's Arbor Lakes retail area, such as Gail Dockter of Brooklyn Park, say they will likely spend more than they have in years past. "I will probably spend more than I did last year. We have more grandchildren and it's hard not to spend on them," said Dockter. The annual University of St. Thomas holiday shopping survey conducted by faculty at the Opus College of Business finds metro area shoppers will spend $918 per household this season, up $68 or eight percent from last year. It's the highest amount recorded since St. Thomas started the survey 15 years ago. "I don't find it all that shocking because we've had over the past year, it's been a pretty good year economically for the most part in the United States," said Jon Seltzer, an instructor in the marketing department at the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas. As far as what shopper will buy this year, there's a few gift categories that tend to reign among the top five each year. "I guess with my girls, it's clothes and with my wife, it's clothes. That and shoes," said shopper Josh VanDonsel. Books and clothing round out the top five most popular gift choices, followed by cash and a category gaining steam called travel and events, such as plays and shows. The number one gift choice is a repeat from last year: gift cards. "I guess the big thing I would say is don't feel badly about giving a gift card. It's the most popular gift," said Seltzer. And whether you're just beginning your shopping or nearing the end, it's worthy to note, several northwest metro shopping malls are "go-to" spots, according to the St. Thomas survey. Maple Grove's Shoppes at Arbor Lakes area consistently draws holiday shoppers, but this year, Ridgedale Center, fresh off more than $100 million in renovations, is expected to draw a crowd as the second most popular place to holiday shop behind the Mall of America. Alexandra Renslo http://twelve.tv Learn about our mobile app - http://bit.ly/CH12app http://twitter.com/12sports http://twitter.com/12localnews http://www.facebook.com/12localnews Channel 12 is on Comcast cable in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis and includes the cities Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Golden Valley, Maple Grove, New Hope, Osseo, Plymouth and Robbinsdale.